What Sacagawea Means to Me, by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie’s essay What Sacagawea Means to Me challenges the readers to make a comparison of Sacagawea to Eve and the US to the Garden of Eden. This is made to create an analogy between Eve’s position as the mother of all the human race and Sacagawea as the mother of all Americans. The thesis for Alexie’s work is “A look into the origin of America and its people in an attempt to understand our destiny”. The comparisons made by the writer are barely true from an ancestral point of view, this represents the symbolism of the coming together of the different cultures that make up America. The essay identifies the most important aspect of the westward expansion that occurred shortly after the revolutionary war whose aim was to expand America to include the whole of North America. Lewis and Clark, mentioned in the essay, are the two most famous explorers in American history and are symbols of the creation of the new nation. To illustrate this symbolism, Alexei gives a quote from a souvenir that will read, “If the US is Eden, then Sacagawea is Eve” (Alexei para. 1).
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The most important paragraph from this essay is the one that reads “The Lewis and Clark expedition was exactly the kind of multicultural, tri-generational, bi-gendered, animal-friendly, government-supported, partly French-Canadian project that should rightly be celebrated by liberals and castigated by conservatives” (Alexie para. 3). This quote reinforces the thesis of the essay and is an attempt at uniting the Americans irrespective of culture. Alexei further paraphrases a quote from the bible to illustrate the basis by which the American nation was established, he writes “in the beginning, she was the word, and the word was a possibility”. However, he concludes the article on a rather negative note, he states that “as a native American, I want to hate this country and its contradictions. It is my opinion that Sacagawea hated this country and its contradictions Alexei para. 4). This is a contradiction to what he had been aiming to pass across in the earlier paragraphs.
Witness, by Andre Dubus
In Witness, Andre Dubus takes us through his activities on a typical Thursday in the years after he had been hit by a vehicle as he assisted two people whose car had stalled. This accident disabled him and was confined to a wheelchair and in this essay, he meets a woman who witnessed the accident ten years ago and her family. An appropriate thesis would be “reflections from the past”; we get to know of the author’s accident ten years ago. He also meets a woman who witnessed his accident and he makes a decision to begin writing immediately based on his earlier interactions. He writes “I told them I would start writing this on Monday, because meeting the woman, shaking her hand, hearing her voice… had so possessed me that I may well plunge into it, write it…” (Dubus para. 2). He uses flashbacks to inform the audience of the circumstances under which the accident had occurred. The essay supports the thesis as we see Dubus so possessed that he begins writing but his ending remark sounds discouraging as he writes “Everything I have written here seems flat: the horns dissonant, the drums lagging, the piano choppy…” (Dubus para. 6).
- Alexie, Sherman. What Sacagawea means to me and perhaps to you. New York: Time Magazine Incorporation. 2002. Web.
- Dubus, Andre. Personal history:witness. New York: The New Yorker Newspaper, 1997.